The human mouth is essentially full of bacteria that can be controlled by regular brushing and flossing. But if you are unable to do these regularly, bacteria together with mucus and food particles would form plaque, a sticky colourless substance on teeth.
If not removed, plaque hardens to form tartar, which cannot be removed by brushing. Tartar harbours bacteria that could eventually lead to periodontitis or gum disease.
Thus, what begins as a bacterial infection in the mouth would result in tooth loss if not diagnosed and treated timely.
What is periodontitis (gum disease)?
Also called periodontal disease, periodontitis is the inflammation of the tissue around the teeth that often causes gum shrinkage and teeth loosening. The tissue around the affected teeth gets destroyed and can no longer sufficiently offer the needed support.
Sadly, numerous adults have some form of gum disease. These range from simple gum inflammation to severe infection which severely damages the soft tissue as well as the bone supporting the teeth.
But there’s no need to be afraid, as these are preventable. Oral hygiene to a large extent determines whether your gum disease will develop, or if is already contracted, will develop.
That said, how will you know if you already have gum disease so you could seek treatment as soon as possible? There are many ways to detect periodontal disease. These include:
Persistent bad breath
A bad breath that won’t go away or an unusually bad taste in the mouth could be a warning sign that gum disease is developing.
Normally, gum disease is caused by plaque build-up. Bacteria in the mouth cause the formation of toxins that stick with the plaque and cause irritation to the gums.
These toxins cause an unusually bad breath. Problem is, this can be mistaken as just a simple bad breath and not as a symptom of a disease.
Unhealthy gums generally provide a medium for odour-causing bacteria that naturally exist in the mouth. The bacteria reproduce and multiply; and may continue to do so and may become severe if not address the situation in time.
The good news is, at this stage, you are most likely suffering from gingivitis – the earliest form of gum disease that can be resolved by good oral hygiene.
With regular brushing, floss and medication, the problem can be resolved.
Tender or bleeding gums
Normally, changing your flossing routine can cause bleeding gums.
But bleeding gums should not be easily dismissed. It could be a sign that your gums are damaged. Now, how will you know the difference?
Here’s the simple trick: bleeding gums caused by flossing should clear up within a week. Beyond that, it could be a result of gum infection.
Other symptoms of gum disease are:
- Red or swollen gums
- Sensitive teeth or painful chewing; and
- Loose teeth
- Red or swollen gums
An infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth results in reddening or swelling of gums. This may or may not be accompanied by bleeding.
Regardless if there is bleeding or not, you should not rule out the possibility of gum disease altogether because of the swollen gums.
With the swelling, gums protrude and redden, instead of having the normal pink colour. These are sensitive, irritated or painful.
When this happens, immediately consult with your dentist. You need to know whether the swelling is indeed a sign of gum disease or just another infection.
- Sensitive teeth or painful chewing
While other symptoms of gingivitis are hardly noticeable, painful chewing or sensitive teeth should be a more alarming sign that your gums are affected.
Plaque on the teeth could extend below the gum line. When this happens, the unchecked gingivitis can cause your gums to separate from the teeth. This is likely to cause mild or serious injury to the soft tissue beneath, hence the sensitivity to stimuli or pain while chewing food.
Food will get into the space created by the affected gums and causing pain upon impact with the soft, freshly exposed tissue.
- Loose teeth
Gum tissue attaches teeth firmly to their socket. With the gums pulled back by the infection, the teeth are left unsupported and soon may become loose. This is a sign of advanced periodontal disease.
At this stage, the gums may appear reclined and the teeth longer. Depending on the level of damage, the dentist may decide to remove the teeth or offer an alternative treatment.
Whatever the case, teeth removal normally comes as the very last resort. The dentist will always consider every possible treatment to save a tooth or more of them.
Gum disease can be prevented. Be sure to brush your teeth for two minutes twice every day to stay free of the disease and keep your teeth in tiptop shape.